In another boost for Bakersfield's long-overlooked tech and startup communities, a Fresno-based nonprofit is coming to town next week to kick off a nearly two month-long "hackathon"-type competition that has been credited with helping launch dozens of small businesses.

Billed as "The Largest Tech Competition in the Central Valley," 59DaysOfCode rewards computer coding expertise and entrepreneurial skills by offering monetary prizes — two first-place finishers will get $10,000 each — to teams of individuals that come up with the best business idea and smartphone app design.

The event's arrival in Bakersfield is seen as a coup in that 59DaysOfCode has never taken place outside Fresno in its 9-year history. It follows word in June that Fresno tech catalyst Bitwise Industries plans to expand to downtown Bakersfield offering coding classes, coworking office space and software development jobs and services.

"What they're doing is really good," Tabari Brannon, co-founder of Mesh Cowork, Bakersfield's de-facto tech hub, said of 59DaysOfCode's decision to convene this year's competition in Kern. "We've had similar competitions in the past but I think this one is, it's on a larger scale than what's happened here before."

The event is similar to a hackathon, in which teams of individuals are usually given a set amount of time to come up with an elegant, computer-based solution to a stated problem. Hackathons have gained traction locally at Mesh and Cal State Bakersfield.

What distinguishes 59DaysofCode, director Alex Hussain-Leon said, is the focus on entrepreneurship: Not only will there be coders working to develop apps but they will be coordinating with startup-minded individuals trying to come up with business plans and polished presentations worthy of attracting investment.

Sometimes the result is a business that actually takes off, he said. Between 25 and 30 real-life enterprises can trace their success to the annual Fresno event, he said.

The Fresno competition has attracted 100 or more competitors in years past. Hussain-Leon is hoping that many will be ready to go upon kickoff in Bakersfield at midnight Sept. 6.

"Somewhere between 70 to 100 people would be really, really wonderful," he said, adding the organization would like to see the event have a continuing presence in Bakersfield.

The competition involves more than just 59 days of hard work. A preparatory event is scheduled to start at 6 p.m. Sept. 3 in CSUB's Solario de Fortaleza Student Recreation Center, followed by a 5 p.m. kickoff party Sept. 6 at Idea Hive, 1910 19th St.

During the course of the competition, 59DaysOfCode plans to host presentations by people experienced in small-business startups. Hussain-Leon said the speaker series will offer tips on presenting business plans to investors and how to create a successful smartphone app, among other skills.

Although projects are due by the competition's 11:59 p.m. Nov. 6 deadline, the biggest days of the event are scheduled for Nov. 15-16. That's the "grand expo" when judges will hear presentations by each team.

Two types of teams are eligible to win: those that have an existing business idea and those starting from scratch.

First place in each category will take home $10,000 in "seed money" to continue the growth of their enterprises. Second in each category get $5,000 and third-place winners get $2,500. Any team in the Central Valley is eligible; the recommended size of each team is three to five people each, though there is no minimum or maximum size.

Jake Soberal, Bitwise's co-founder and co-CEO, said 59DaysOfCode's decision to host this year's competition is a nod to Bakersfield's tech and startup potential.

"I think it's continued validation of the opportunity that exists in Bakersfield," he said. "Here is a city that has really extraordinary, unrealized talent and really a great quality of human, a wonderful sort of fabric to create and entrepreneurial ecosystem."

Registration costs $50 per team. Information is available online at

This story has been revised to update the scheduling of certain events and to make clear there is no event scheduled for the competition's kickott at midnight Sept. 6.

John Cox can be reached at 661-395-7404. Follow him on Twitter: @TheThirdGraf. Sign up at for free newsletters about local business.

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